Health officials 'strongly advising' against non-essential travel to UK over fear of Delta variant

Health officials 'strongly advising' against non-essential travel to UK over fear of Delta variant

Dr Holohan acknowledged the challenge in Northern Ireland with the Delta variant. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Ireland is experiencing "near elimination" of Covid-19 in the vaccinated population, but Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has advised the public against non-essential travel to the UK amid concerns over the fast-spreading Delta variant.

The advice does not yet include travel to Northern Ireland from the Republic, but Dr Holohan said he is "concerned" about the situation across the border.

He will consult with public health leaders in the North today, which will inform ongoing considerations.

"We're strongly advising against non-essential travel between here and the UK, because of the concerns in terms of transmission of the Delta variant," said Dr Holohan.

The seven-day incidence that we've seen across Northern Ireland, and particularly Derry, in recent days, we know it will be of concern to our colleagues in Northern Ireland, and it is of concern to us.

"We are expressing our concern about that. We haven't formally advised on that at this moment in time. We're keeping a very close eye."

Dr Holohan acknowledged the challenge in Northern Ireland with the Delta variant, which makes up in excess of 20% of new cases there in the most recent data available.

He has also appealed to unvaccinated people who are now mainly in their 20s and 30s to stay in Ireland until they get their shots.

There is a risk of being exposed to the virus at present if travelling abroad without being vaccinated, he said.

“There are plenty of good holiday opportunities in this country," he said.

The advice was issued as the HSE cautioned that the speed of the vaccine rollout programme will slow down in July. 

More than 300,000 jabs are being administered each week, but this is likely to drop to 200,000 in July, with only two supply lines available — Moderna and Pfizer.

Those vaccines are the only ones available to younger age cohorts, under advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

The Government had previously set a target of 450,000 doses a week by mid-June, contingent on supply.

Despite this, the situation remains broadly positive, with infections collapsing among the vaccinated.

Dr Holohan said: "We are now experiencing near-elimination of Covid-19 in the vaccinated population.

"If you are fully vaccinated you can safely resume normal life — meeting other fully vaccinated people from up to two households indoors without masks or social distancing, and meeting unvaccinated people from one other household indoors and without masks."

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